The Artiste and the Penmonkey

I try to avoid calling myself a writer, or a creative, or any of those magical, wonderful titles. I call myself a penmonkey. It’s taken from Chug Wendig’s ‘Terrible Minds‘ blog and philosophy haven.

Quite a few people get startled, or even upset, at the notion of calling myself a penmonkey.

It’s disrespectful to yourself, and to other writers. 

It sounds like you have low self-esteem.

How can you expect other people to respect your work when you so obviously don’t?



The reason I’m calling myself a penmonkey is because I just finished 3 years of a Creative and Professional writing degree. Aside from a core group of people who didn’t drive me mad, I was surrounded by people who were way, way too precious about their work, and their genius.



I kid you not. The number of tantrums and diva-fits were ridiculous. It made me realise that there are two kinds of writers. There are the Writers, those who are genuinely interested in improving their writing, who want to learn and grow. These are the people who happily acknowledge that they don’t know it all, never will, and can generally, but not always, admit when there’s an issue in their work.

The other kind? I don’t get on well with them. They’re the ones who think their writing is perfect. Even if it’s their first draft. Even if they haven’t even spell-checked, or read it back once they’ve finished mashing their faces on the keyboard. They’re the Artistes, the ones who are perfect as they are. If you don’t like their work, it’s because you’re stupid and you can’t understand it. Little minds don’t tend to comprehend greatness, don’t you know.

All writers, even me, have those tendencies. We all veer dangerously close to being Artistes from time to time. I can see it in myself each and every time I finish writing a story, and I’m so emotionally invested that editing is pointless for at least a fortnight. But I don’t want to be that kind of a writer. Not now, not ever. By calling myself a penmonkey, I remind myself that I don’t have the right to be precious. I write. I’m lucky enough to have that opportunity. It’s doesn’t make me Shakespeare.

If I want to write, I have to work for it.

I’m an advocate for doing what works for you, and this is no exception. I don’t think all writers should call themselves penmonkeys, nor do I believe that referring to yourself as an artiste is in anyway a bad thing. This is simply an explanation of the terms I’ll be using here.

It begs the question, though: what labels for writers do you love, and which ones do you hate?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s